This Week in Ford Racing
Last weekend in Gainesville, Mike Neff, driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car for John Force Racing, returned to the Winner’s Circle for the second time in his career. Neff earned the victory in only his second race back behind the wheel after taking last year off to crew chief for John Force. Neff talks about what the win means for him in his NHRA post-race press conference.
YOU’RE IN A PRETTY GOOD POSITION. YOU’RE A CREW CHIEF THAT IS ALSO A DRIVER. IF ONE DOESN’T WORK OUT YOU CAN FOCUS ON THE OTHER. “Hopefully, it’s hard to get them both working at the same time. It was just a great day for our whole team. We needed this to keep the Force string running. That’s four in a row for Team Force. It feels good. Fortunately I have a great car. It was the car that John [Force] drove last year and I just got in it. The car runs good; it did last year, so now it’s just a matter of not messing up. The driving part is the hardest part for me. “
TALK ABOUT THE WORKLOAD FROM BEING THE CREW CHIEF AND THE DRIVER. IS IT WEARING ON YOU? “I’m mentally drained, and losing an hour of sleep last night didn’t help me. We have so much help out there though with people looking at the track. Everybody covers all of the load. Honestly what I have to do is actually pretty minimal in the big scheme of it. The hardest part is just that it’s mentally draining. It just wears you down. It’s all worth it now.”
MATT HAGAN SAID DURING QUALIFYING THAT YOU WERE THE ONE TO WATCH. ANY REASON WHY HE MIGHT HAVE FELT THAT WAY? “We raced Matt. We were lined up next to him quite a bit. That’s a strong team right there. We barely got around him last year and they’re going to be tough all year. We were lined up side by side for probably three of our qualifying runs. He was probably being nice and trying to make me feel good. That’s a big compliment coming from him. They are a tough team.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO GET A WIN THIS QUICK AFTER JUST GETTING BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL? “Yes and no. In Pomona things fell apart on us on Sunday. We were running good there through qualifying and on race day we had got some debris on one of our clutch valves, so the car wasn’t running as good as it should’ve. It fell off and then I made a mistake. Matt [Hagan] beat me off the starting line and I made a mistake. I just had to look at that. It’s hard being the driver because you only get one shot. When that light flashes you’re either there or you’re not. As close as the racing is now you can’t afford to give anything up. I felt bad about that. I knew I just made a mistake because I had been having pretty good lights all through testing and qualifying. That was the worst light I had. I was just late. I tried to look at what I did wrong there and come here with a different approach. Honestly the hard part for me right now is getting my mind right when it’s time to drive and not over think it.”
Honestly what I have to do is actually pretty minimal in the big scheme of it.
IN 2009 AFTER YOU HAD WON YOUR FIRST RACE YOU HAD SAID YOU WERE OK WITH GOING BACK TO TUNING. NOW THAT YOU’VE WON THIS RACE, WOULD YOU BE OK WITH GOING BACK TO TUNING AGAIN IF YOU HAD TO FOR THE NEXT RACE? “Maybe at the end of this year. I want to give it a run all-year this year. I love tuning and hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing. This might only be a one year thing for me. I’m trying to make the most of it. When I drove a couple of years ago I was disappointed with my results. I just felt like we didn’t achieve what I would have wanted to achieve. I had made some mistakes driving. For whatever reason, I had felt kind of unsatisfied like I didn’t do a really good job at driving. It’s important to me this year because I want to be a good driver. That’s what I’m really trying to work on. That’s why this win means more to me than the other one, by far. It’s just a great day here.”
YOU ALMOST SOUND LIKE YOU WOULD LIKE TO GO BACK TO JUST BEING A TUNER AFTER THIS YEAR. “I didn’t expect to drive this year until Ashley [Force Hood] announced that she was pregnant. We were going to go on just like we were, but that changed things. I’m just thankful to John Force for giving me this opportunity and to Castrol for letting me do it because they have say so. I know everyone was bummed to not see Ashley out here. She’s a big part of drag racing and has a ton of fans. I think when everyone heard that Ashley was leaving it was kind of a bummer, even for myself because she’s a big part of the sport. She’ll probably be back next year and I’ll go back to doing what I was doing before. To get this chance this year, it’s like a chance of a lifetime for me and I want to make sure I give it all I’ve got.”
-source: ford racing